Fireworks Magazine Online 74 - Interview with AOR


Ian Johnson talks with Frederic Slama

Frederic Slama is the driving force behind the band known as the AOR Project. If you want pure Melodic Rock, sung and played by some of the best artists in the business, then look no further than one of his albums. Slama's new CD 'L.A Darkness' is a prime example of this and Fireworks talks with him about it and his thoughts on the state of AOR/Melodic Rock in 2016.

frederic-Slama-AOR Interview

Over the last couple of albums you seemed to be going for a heavier sound, for AOR anyway; more guitars and less keyboards. And whilst 'L.A Darkness' has those heavier elements I think it's much more melodic than anything you've done in quite some time. Was this a deliberate writing choice for you and Tommy Denander or just how the new songs turned out during the writing process?

With 'L.A Darkness' I wanted to turn a page in the AOR series that I started in 2000. Since that time every one out of two albums started with the word "L.A." or ended up with a word with "ion", like 'L.A Connection', 'L.A Reflection', 'L.A Ambition' etc. I wanted a darker approach and at the same time more melodic and more 80s with a modern touch in a different way than anything I'd done before. I knew what I wanted right from the start and I told Tommy Denander and Paul Sabu that we will go this darker path, and they were not even scared!

When it comes to choosing singers, how do you do it? As you write a song do you hear who you want to sing the song in your head or do you sit down after the music is written, with a list of your vocalist friends and think that person would be good on this song and that person would be good on that one?

I've always got a couple of singers in mind every time I write a song. When I was younger I always had Lou Gramm and Steve Perry in mind, but now I'm more open-minded, though I would love to have them on an AOR CD! Now I try to write specifically for someone I'd like to sing my songs, and I've always had luck in that department for the last fifteen AOR CDs.

Talking of singers, why no ladies this time around? Did none of the songs fit a female voice or was it just down to no one being available?

I had the luck to work in the past with huge talents like Robin Beck, Tamara Champlin, Sarah and Mélissa Fontaine from Chasing Violets, Rachel Diggs and a few others, but this time the material really fitted my "darker" side so I only wanted male singers. At the same time I want to reassure the fans, when I say darker it's more the lyrics which are that way. The AOR sound is still a mix of all the bands I love like Foreigner, Giant, Toto, FM and Survivor. I'm still far from Motorhead or Metallica!

After all these years where do you get your song ideas from because you seem to be a very prolific songwriter?

My main job, even before AOR, is to write songs for others and I've done that for 30 years for Japanese, American or French artists, under a pseudonym sometimes, and not all have been successful, I must humbly admit. I find my ideas in real life, in this ever changing world, in things people tell me or simply in my imagination. The lyrics are one of the most important things for me and I always try to come up with original, or never done before titles, which is not easy since there have been a lot of artists releasing records before me. I try to keep people interested and there are often hidden meanings in many of my songs.

On the new album you have the likes of Jeff Scott Soto, Steve 'The Voice' Overland and Paul Sabu, who have all been on your most recent albums, alongside Kevin Chalfant and Henry Small of Prism, who aren't your usual go to guys. So is there a list that you have somewhere at home that has singers on it that you still haven't worked with but want to, and if so who are they?

Yes, it was an honour to have been able to again work with all these guys and the new ones like Kevin or Henry who I wanted to work with for a very long time! My wish list is more like a Christmas shopping list and I would need 10 pages to list them all, but here's a few I have in mind, ones I'd really like to have on an upcoming AOR album: Lou Gramm, Marshall Styler (Duke Jupiter), Aldo Nova, Joe Lynn Turner, Steve Perry, Andrea Corr, Dave Bickler (Survivor), Eddie Money, Dann Huff and so many more that I can't list them all here! I hope they will forgive me someday haha!

Fireworks - The Ultimate Magazine for Melodic Rock Music

Have you ever wanted to make an AOR album but just have one singer singing everything, or do your songs need to be sung by different people so that you can get the most out of them?

Yes, I have thought of this idea several times but I wouldn't release it under the name AOR. People who buy the AOR albums are looking for their favourite singers and musicians on a Melodic Rock album reminiscent of the 80s and that's what they want to hear. But sure, I've got several ideas of doing an album or two with the same singer – just don't ask me who it is yet.

Have you ever wanted to record a completely different kind of album from your AOR ones, say a Melodic Metal album or a Prog album?

Strangely I would love to do a 70s Funk album like Ray Parker Jr. meets Al Jarreau. I would also be interested to do a Hard Rock album along the lines of Kiss or AC/DC. For both these projects I have recorded in L.A. a couple of songs with big stars over the years but I'm far from being finished and we might all be in a retirement home before I do so, haha!

You've worked with a veritable who's who of vocalists, the cream of the crop if you will of AOR/Melodic Rock singers. But who has been your favourite singer to work with and who did the best vocals for one of your songs?

If I tell you a name I might make a lot of enemies in the business and some of them may not want to talk to me ever again! But I like the risk and I'm going to tell you one name as requested: Fergie Frederiksen, ex-Toto, who recorded his last song for the AOR album 'Secrets Of LA'. I was so impressed by his determination, his kindness and his professionalism. He'll always have a special place in my heart.

Will we see the AOR Project on tour or would putting together such a diverse amount of singers be a logistical nightmare?

It's been more than a couple of years since the AOR Project was scheduled to play gigs and festivals in Europe and Japan, but the fans want to see big names on stage and I need at least five or six famous musicians and, let's say, a couple of singers to reach that goal. The problem is that it would cost a lot of money to fly them from all over the world and very few promoters are willing to pay the right price for this kind of super gig. I'm still talking with some of them and maybe I will find a solution to this problem and AOR might finally play in Europe and in the UK ... that, I would particularly love to do.

What does the future hold for the AOR band Frederic?

I'm still writing for other artists, and at the same time I'm producing some tracks for a girl I work with. I've also started recording songs for the next AOR project and I'm working on some reissues of some very old projects that have been long overdue. The market has changed drastically and sales are not what they used to be due to illegal downloading all over the world. These guys that are not buying CDs anymore don't understand the damage they are doing to their favourite artists by doing so. When you think you can pay £4 for a cup of coffee in a Starbucks but you won't buy a £12 CD because you'd rather pay £1 for a single song legal download, don't be surprised if in a couple of years that none of your favourite artists will be releasing new albums anymore! People who love AOR/Melodic Rock are among the most passionate in the world and really support the bands and artists, so please keep doing so and even if you don't buy 'L.A Darkness' I would be glad to know that you bought another CD with your hard earned cash to support your favourite artists.

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